15 Tips to Get into Top Nurse Practitioner Schools
Written By: Brooke Schmidt, RN, BSN
Are you a registered nurse who wants to become a nurse practitioner? Do you want to find the right program but wonder if someone can tell you how to get into a top nurse practitioner school? If so, the information in this article could be exactly what you need! In this article, I will share information about nurse practitioner schools, including 15 tips to get into top nurse practitioner schools and a few common mistakes to avoid in the application process. When you finish reading, you will have enough information to apply with confidence and increase your chance of getting into the school of your choice.
HOW HARD IS IT TO GET INTO TOP NURSE PRACTITIONER SCHOOLS?
Nurse practitioner programs are often limited in the number of students they can admit, which can make it hard to get into top nurse practitioner schools. Researching programs and knowing what each looks for in a candidate can make the process easier and increase your chances of receiving an admission offer.
RECOMMENDED ONLINE NURSE PRACTITIONER PROGRAMS
5 MAIN THINGS TOP NURSE PRACTITIONER SCHOOLS LOOK FOR IN POTENTIAL APPLICANTS
Getting into a top nurse practitioner school can be
challenging, especially if you are unsure what the school is searching for in a candidate. The following are five main things NP schools look for in potential applicants.
1. Leadership Experience:
Being a nurse practitioner comes with a higher level of autonomy than any nursing role. With increased independence comes increased responsibility. Admissions committees understand the importance of strong leadership and look for candidates with a proven history of leadership. Have you worked in a leadership role, such as being a charge nurse, unit director, or nurse manager? Perhaps you chaired a committee. If you do not have leadership experience, consider getting involved in activities where you can demonstrate leadership as you need this to get into top nurse practitioner schools.
2. History of Academic Success:
It takes determination to succeed in nurse practitioner school. One way you can demonstrate your dedication is to show a history of academic success. Most nurse practitioner schools require candidates to have at least a 3.0-grade point average in their most recent degree, which for most students is the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. However, if you want to be a competitive applicant, getting your GPA up to a 3.3 or higher can help better your chance of getting into a top nurse practitioner school.
3. A Clear Understanding of the Nurse Practitioner Role:
If you want to get into a top nurse practitioner school, you must understand and be able to describe the role of a nurse practitioner. You must understand and articulate the nurse practitioner's scope of practice and laws related to NP practice.
4. Clinical Nursing Experience:
Nurse practitioner schools look for applicants with good clinical experience. Getting into top nurse practitioner schools requires work experience in settings where you demonstrated a higher level of autonomy and utilized critical thinking skills to get the job done. Emergency rooms and intensive care units are excellent places to get that kind of experience.
5. Excellent Communication Skills:
Nurse practitioners work with patients and nursing staff and collaborate with other healthcare professionals within and outside their facilities. Therefore, having excellent communication skills is essential.
HOW TO GET INTO TOP NURSE PRACTITIONER SCHOOLS?
(The following 15 tips will help you in your pursuit of getting into one of the top Nurse Practitioner Schools in the nation.)
TIP #1: Volunteer your time in the healthcare settings where you want to work
To get into a top nurse practitioner school, you need to stand out from the crowd. While it can be challenging to find time to volunteer when you are working and managing other family and social responsibilities, it can make a big difference in the application process. Admissions staff look for applicants who are passionate about nursing, and what better way to prove this point than by volunteering your time?
The bonus is that the time you spend volunteering can also apply to minimum experience requirements in a specific field. Specialty NP programs such as mental health, trauma, and emergency rooms have more stringent work experience requirements, which can be a win-win situation.
TIP #2: Make sure you have the right experience
If you want to increase your chance of getting into top nurse practitioner schools, having the right experience is essential. Most nurse practitioner programs require at least one year of nursing experience in a clinical setting. Strong candidates have experience in settings where they must use critical thinking, decision-making, and leadership skills. If you know what subspecialty you want to pursue, consider getting some experience in that specialty. For example, if you want to be a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
, try to get experience working in a behavioral health inpatient or outpatient setting.
TIP #3: Provide a professional and well-written personal statement
You will be asked to write a personal statement, goal statement, letter of intent, or similarly titled document as part of your application process. While it might be easy to write out a few hundred words and call it good, many applicants overlook the importance of this document. Admissions faculty comb through hundreds or even thousands of admissions essays and personal statements. So, your statement should stand out. Take the time to personalize your essay, dig into why you want to be a nurse practitioner, and inspire the reader with a personal story. The final critical step is to proofread and edit your document before submitting it. Grammar and spelling mistakes can look unprofessional, so use an online tool or ask a friend to provide a second opinion.
TIP #4: Prepare for your interview like you would prepare for a new job
As a registered nurse, you may have already completed at least a few professional interviews. Getting into a top nurse practitioner school will require another interview with the program faculty. One way to improve your chances of admission is to be well-prepared for the interview. Review possible interview questions and practice answering them with a friend or family member. Read the program goals, think of ways your professional goals align with the schools, and be prepared to discuss them in the interview.
TIP #5: Polish your resume and highlight important information
Your resume is the one place admissions committees look for your education, work, and volunteer experience. Take the time to polish and perfect this document. No one wants to spend extra time trying to find the information they need. Therefore, the information should be easy to find and uncluttered. You can accomplish this by having a strong objective statement
followed by clear headlines breaking up each section. Make sure any references have current contact information and that former places of employment have your supervisor's name and contact information listed.
TIP #6: Reach out to previous instructors and managers at work to find the best references
When applying to get into top nurse practitioner schools, you will need to provide two or three letters of recommendation. Reach out to former instructors or work supervisors to find the best sources for references. Reaching out ahead of time will save you the stress of finding people at the last minute. Make sure you pick people who are willing to write a personalized letter incorporating reasons why you should be accepted into a nurse practitioner program. If you have worked with or been instructed by a certified nurse practitioner or specialized in the field you want to pursue, their perspective on your abilities and likelihood of success in the program could be instrumental in helping you get admitted.
TIP #7: Pick a specialty to increase your chances of being admitted
Some schools will give you admission to the general nurse practitioner program, and then you will have the choice between different specialty tracks. Other schools will have you choose and apply to the specific specialty from the start. Knowing which specialty you want to pursue and being able to explain your choice in your admissions essay or interview shows your seriousness about the program, which is something admission faculty look for in candidates. If you already have clinical experience or certifications in a specific nursing area, that can make it an easy decision when choosing a specialty.
TIP #8: Get certified
As nurses, we can become certified in many subjects and specialties. If you want to get into a good nurse practitioner school, you can improve your chances by becoming certified before applying. For instance, if you want to become a pediatric nurse practitioner, use your clinical experience and study skills to become a certified pediatric nurse. Gaining certifications shows your dedication to your practice and willingness to grow and learn professionally. If you can balance work, life, and the additional stress of studying for a certification, you will be able to handle a nurse practitioner program as well.
TIP #9: Let your life experiences set you apart
Was there a defining moment that caused you to pursue nursing? What events or experiences may be unique to you? Admissions departments look for students who exemplify their mission and values and bring something new to the table. Let your cumulative life experiences help you with the admission process by highlighting areas that apply to why you want to become a nurse practitioner and why you believe you are a good fit for their specific program. Going the extra mile to correlate your life experiences to why you want to be an NP and attend a specific program will show you are serious.
TIP #10: Work the diversity angle
Diversity is a term that in its simplest form means a variety of different things. You may have a unique way of approaching nursing or have a future goal in mind that can be accomplished as a nurse practitioner. What makes you different? Be creative and use unique aspects of your life to help build your application. Did you grow up in a rural setting? Are you a first-generation college student? Leverage your diversity to help you gain admission by showing how your differences can benefit not only their program but also the health care and professional nursing field.
TIP #11: Make a personal connection
Going the extra step and making a personal connection can help you get into one of these top NP schools. Check your LinkedIn profile or social media contacts to see if you know anyone who is an alum or a current student of the program you want to attend. These connections can help you get valuable insight into the application process or help you make a connection with someone in the admissions department or even a current faculty member. If you are unable to find a connection to the program, consider attending a virtual or in-person information session and connecting with the host. Each interaction matters and can improve your chances of gaining admission.
TIP #12: Have a strong “Why” and be ready to explain it
Gaining admission into a top nurse practitioner school is just the start of a long journey toward earning your degree. Your reason for wanting to be an NP should be convincing and help the admissions faculty know you are serious and committed to completing the program. It would be best if you had a true story that convinces admissions staff that you chose a career as a nurse practitioner for the right reasons. Simply "wanting to be an NP" is not going to make them remember your admission application. Maybe your reason is you want to provide better outcomes for low-income communities, or you want to increase access to psychiatric care for veterans. Whatever your reason, make sure it is evident when you apply.
TIP #13: Be prepared with supplemental information if your academic record needs to be better
One of the ways around a low GPA or less-than-stellar academic transcripts is by providing supplemental information or a letter of purpose. This allows you to explain extenuating circumstances that may have led to your less-than-desired academic record. Use this as another opportunity to show why you will be a good fit for the nurse practitioner program. Gathering relevant supplemental information is especially important as top nurse practitioner schools prefer to use a holistic approach when evaluating and determining the appropriateness of candidates for their programs.
TIP #14: Research, research, research
If you want to get into a top nurse practitioner school, you must do your due diligence. All aspects of your application should be tailored and customized to the school you are applying to and the specific nurse practitioner specialty. If you do not take the time to research the program and edit your application, they may not take the time to read it thoroughly. It can take time to research and adapt each application and written statement, but if it helps you gain admission, it is worthwhile.
TIP #15: Join professional nursing organizations
Another way to improve your chance of getting accepted to a top nurse practitioner school is by joining relevant nursing organizations. You can show your dedication and commitment to the professional nursing world by being a member and actively participating. Joining professional nursing organizations is another terrific way to network with other nurse practitioner students or find a mentor to help you through the process. Pick an organization that matches your professional goals, and be sure to include it on your resume. A few professional nursing organizations you can join include:
• American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA)
• American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)
• American Nurses Association (ANA)
• National League for Nursing (NLN)
BONUS! 5 MUST AVOID COMMON MISTAKES THAT MIGHT RUIN YOUR CHANCES OF GETTING INTO TOP NURSE PRACTITIONER SCHOOLS
If you want to get into a top nurse practitioner school, you must put forth the effort to make yourself a viable candidate. You can follow all the tips to improve your chances but still lose the opportunity by making common mistakes. The following are some of the most common mistakes NP school applicants make that you should avoid.
MISTAKE #1: Not personalizing your application
Submitting generic application information and rushing through the process is a common mistake. If you do not personalize your documents, the admissions team might not consider them.
MISTAKE #2: Missing the application deadline
When you miss the deadline or request an extension, it gives off the vibe of being unconcerned or thinking the rules do not apply to you. Unless you have an extenuating circumstance that led to you missing the application deadline, a late submission could ruin your chance of getting into a top nurse practitioner school.
MISTAKE #3: Forgetting to request your official transcripts
It can be easy to forget this crucial step in the application process. A common mistake can be assuming the school will request transcripts on your behalf or simply forgetting to obtain them. Because a review of previous transcripts is necessary to determine transferrable credits, you must plan ahead to ensure official transcripts arrive on time.
MISTAKE #4: Not following the specific guidelines for your reference letters
Every school has requirements for obtaining and submitting reference letters. If you are interested in getting into top nurse practitioner schools, make sure you carefully read the instructions and do not make the mistake of submitting the wrong type of references.
MISTAKE #5: Not dressing professionally for your interview
Remember the phrase, "dress for success," when preparing for an interview. The way you present yourself to the admission faculty says a lot about you. Nothing less than business casual attire should be worn. Remember, faculty are seeking NP candidates who demonstrate professionalism at all times, and the way you present yourself can impact how they view you.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Once you decide you want to become a nurse practitioner, preparing and applying to schools can be exciting. It can also be a time of nervous energy or anxiety. Being prepared and following through can make a huge difference in whether you receive an admission offer. If you take the 15 tips to get into top nurse practitioner schools from this article and use them as a guide for how to get into a top nurse practitioner school, you can improve your chances of getting into the school you choose.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY OUR EXPERT
1. When Is The Application Deadline For Top Nurse Practitioner Schools?
The application deadline for top nurse practitioner schools varies. Schools with specific start dates usually set a deadline approximately six months before the start of the next term. Schools with rolling admission have priority deadlines, but you can apply at any time.
2. What Are The Admission Requirements For Top Nurse Practitioner Schools?
You will need a GPA of 3.0 or above, a current RN license, a BSN degree (unless choosing a direct entry program that will require an associate degree or non-nursing bachelor’s degree) and you must submit required documents specific to each program.
3. What Is The Average GPA Of Students Who Get Into Top Nurse Practitioner Schools?
Although many of the top nurse practitioner schools require a minimum 3.0 GPA, the average of most admitted students is 3.3. Remember, the admission process is competitive, so the higher your GPA, the better your chance of getting into a top nurse practitioner school.
4. Can I Get Into A Top Nurse Practitioner School With A Low GPA?
There may still be hope if your GPA is on the lower end. Many schools offer an option to submit either a GRE score or a written statement to help boost your application and convince the admission department why you are still a suitable candidate for their programs.
5. How Important Is Experience When Trying To Get Into A Top Nurse Practitioner School?
Experience is very important when trying to get into a top nurse practitioner school. Although admission criteria vary, most schools require candidates to have at least one year of work experience as a professional registered nurse.
6. Can I Get Into A Top Nurse Practitioner School Without Extracurriculars?
Extracurriculars are not always an admission requirement to get into top NP schools. However, having them can help you stand out and will make you eligible for more scholarships.
7. Is There An Interview For Admission Into Top Nurse Practitioner Schools?
Most nurse practitioner schools require applicants to participate in an admissions interview. The interview is typically one of the last steps to get into top nurse practitioner schools before receiving an offer of admission.
8. What Is The Admission Rate For Top Nurse Practitioner Schools?
The admission rate for top nurse practitioner schools varies, depending on the number of faculty and available clinical sites. Some sources report 75% of applicants get into nurse practitioner schools.
9. Is There A Waiting List For Top Nurse Practitioner Schools?
There is often a waiting list for top nurse practitioner schools. If you get waitlisted, be sure to follow-up before the program’s scheduled start date to see if a spot has become available.
10. Will Applying Early Increase My Chances Of Admission Into Top Nurse Practitioner Schools?
Applying early can help increase your chances of getting into top nurse practitioner schools. Many schools offer a priority deadline, which means your application will be reviewed before applications that are submitted at a later date.
Brooke Schmidt, RN, BSN
Brooke Schmidt is a registered nurse with 10 years of clinical experience. She is currently living in Oregon and enjoys exploring the Pacific Northwest with her family. Brooke graduated from The University of Portland with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. During her time in school, Brooke developed a passion for geriatrics and chose a specialized practicum to gain further experience with this population.